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In June 2019 we took a lovely bunch of people on a Guided Coast to Coast walk. The weather was pretty soggy during the first week, but the walkers' spirits were definitely not dampened! They hung on in there with no complaining, and were rewarded with some much brighter weather for the second half of the walk, before they finally made it to the beach at Robin Hood's Bay.
Here are a few photos from the walk. If you're inspired to join a guided Coast to Coast walk, or you fancy taking it on as self-guided trip, click here
Every journey has its first step! The group at the start of the walk in St Bees.
Climbing the steps from Fleswick Bay, with the sun shining!
Ennerdale Water - rough walking and choppy waters.
The hard descent from Greenup Edge - especially in wet weather. Care is needed!
The group preparing to start off from Glenriding - laden with cooked breakfasts, thermos flasks and biscuits.
The long, steep ascent towards the High Street junction to Kidsty Pike, the highest point on the Coast to Coast, with heads down against the wind!
Resting down by Hawes Water after the long descent from Kidsty Pike - and the sun had come out!
Millstone cairn descending into upper Swaledale.
East Gill Force, Keld.
Starting the day from Keld at East Gill Force.
Beautiful Swaledale from near Crackpot Hall, Keld.
Single file please! Walking across the beautiful pastures near Muker, on the low-level route to Reeth.
A traditional 'Laithe' stone, winter-feed hay barn - which often also served to house a couple of cows over winter.
The group commencing the traverse of the Cleveland Hills.
Ascending Live Moor - with some bits of heather already out.
Outside a shooters' hut near Great Fryupdale.
Reaching the coast again - just 3.5 miles to go until Robin Hood's Bay!
And they made it! On the beach at Robin Hood's Bay, and the end of another fantastic guided Coast to Coast walk with Sherpa Expeditions.
If you're inspired to join a guided Coast to Coast walk, or you fancy taking it on as self-guided trip, click here
Cora Nelson from Montana in the USA is an experienced walker, and has enjoyed several tours in the UK over recent years. In May 2019 she decided to take on the Coast to Coast, and shared the story of her walk with us.
What is your walking history?
My love of walking developed later in life. I took my Girl Scout troop to the scout house called ‘Our Chalet’ in Switzerland just over a dozen years ago and while the girls wanted a day to rest, I joined a group of Norwegian scouts for a mountain hike. Coming from the flatlands of mid-western USA I wasn’t confident that I could manage, but the leader was welcoming and encouraging, so off I went. I loved it! It was hard work, but so worth every step. And, I was hooked! Next came walking the West Highland Way of Scotland, then some moseying in southern England. Recently I joined a group for guided walks along the west coast of Wales and a week of fell walking in the Lake District. At my ex-pat home in Montana I belong to a women’s hiking group and we head for the mountains hiking, snowshoeing or skiing year-round.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
I was intrigued with the idea of walking across a country. I’m fond of England so Wainwright’s Coast to Coast was the perfect choice. The diversity of scenery in the UK is amazing!
How did you prepare?
With my former long-distance walks, I often arrived at my accommodation at night absolutely worn out. Thankfully a good night’s sleep would put things right again. This time I was determined to arrive knowing that I still had more to give. (Only twice did I feel ‘finished off’ at the end of our days.) My commitment to weekly mountain hiking really helped to build my endurance. I also worked out at a gym three times per week - without fail. I worked with a personal trainer who knew of my long-distance walking plan and he developed routines that increased my general fitness. I was in the best shape of my life for this walk and all of the preparation was well worth it.
What was your favourite destination?
It’s so hard to choose a favourite destination along this walk! Of course, St. Bees was a highlight as arriving there after all of our planning meant that our grand adventure was about to begin. One of my favourite lunch spots was en-route from Grasmere to Patterdale. We were making good time and noticed a large group of students coming up the trail toward us so we decided to step aside and have lunch. I had so hoped for good weather for reaching and viewing the Nine Standards and our good fortune with good weather allowed for this. My three walking buddies and I had built three ‘rest’ days into our itinerary and we enjoyed relaxing in Grasmere, Keld and Osmotherley. And, I loved arriving early in the afternoon at The White Lion at Blakey Ridge and having the afternoon to enjoy such luxury!
Best food and drink?
I was impressed with our food along the entire walk. Our hearty breakfasts provided the nutrition we needed to fuel our days. We relied on pub food in the evenings and were always pleased with the offerings. On the evening that we arrived in Rosthwaite, after walking the high route of Red Pike, High Stile, High Crag, Haystacks, and then over Honister Pass, we were ready for a good meal and the dinner at The Riverside Bar far exceeded our hopes. We fell for most of the honesty stands we passed and a favourite among those was the stand at Sunbiggin Tarn, which offered chocolate chip gingerbread and tea...so tasty! We’d read in our guide book that the Littlebeck Methodist Church offered tea and coffee, and as we arrived we decided to take a break to enjoy that. We went in the back door and were greeted by a small group of men who were just as surprised to see us as we were to see them! It turned out that we were there on their ‘Men’s Shed’ day, when several men of the local community gathered in the back of the church for woodworking, dominoes and visiting. They welcomed us and quickly offered cuppas and biscuits from their own supply...a charming memory that will have a place in my scrapbook.
On a mutual friend’s advice, we included a rest day in the village of Keld. Some folks questioned us, saying that Keld is tiny and without much to do, but this is exactly what made it sound perfect for a rest day. We’d learned after spending our rest day in Grasmere walking all through the village that what we really wanted to do on a rest day was rest! And, so we did. I spent the morning reading in the cosy and welcoming lounge of Keld Lodge, our accommodation. In the afternoon I visited the village museum and went for a leisurely two-mile stroll along the River Swale to see the many waterfalls Keld is known for. When the next day arrived, we were refreshed and ready to resume our trek.
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
I’d definitely say the route down from High Crag! We’d walked the high route peaks and only when we arrived at the peak of High Crag did, I realize that I hadn’t read a single word about how one descends from this peak. I looked around and with a sense of dread, peered over the edge where the path seemed most likely to be. Sure enough, there it was...a series of steep and narrow steps leading a long way down. I avoid this type of hiking situation and wondered just where the rescue helicopter might be! That, of course, wasn’t a reasonable solution so I gingerly began the descent, oh so slowly, focusing on each step. I didn’t look up at how far I’d come and I certainly didn’t look down at the remaining descent. Step by step I finally reached level ground and with a wave of relief realized that I can do this type of hiking...which was good to learn as more steep descents lay ahead...all of which I tackled with my new-found confidence.
If you're interested in walking the Coast to Coast
, have a look at our guided and self guided options here
Walking is not just for summer! If you want to feel the warmth of the sun on your face in the middle of winter, a European walking holiday is a great way to escape those cold weather blues. There’s something about being out and active in the fresh air when most of the people you know are in hibernation mode that gives you a fantastic sense of well-being, especially as it can be hard to stay active when winter arrives and we tend to spend more time indoors.
Take a look at some of our favourite walking holidays for winter 2019-20.
La Palma Island Walking
A new destination for this year, La Palma is a fascinating volcanic island. The most north-westerly and the fifth largest of the Canary Islands, it’s famous for its volcanic craters and the huge collapsed erosion crater called The Caldera Taburiente - an amazing site 10 km across and with walls towering more than 2,000m over the caldera floor in places. Our itinerary in La Palma features a series of walks from three base towns – there is a lot of flexibility on offer, depending on how much you want to challenge yourself.
Exploring La Gomera
If you’ve been walking on the Spanish mainland, or have been to the Canaries before and you come to La Gomera, you’ll probably notice that the second smallest island of the Canaries is something special, and altogether quite different. Some people liken it to Spain in the 1970s, but if you have travelled to countries of Central or South America, there are certainly Latin American elements that you will recognize in the villages and landscapes. This circular walk takes you around almost the entire island, allowing you to experience the amazing diversity of landscapes on offer.
Exploring La Gomera is available as an 8-day
Southern Trails of La Gomera
This trip focusses on the sunny south side of La Gomera. The shorter walking days will give you the opportunity to do other activities such as relax by the sea, snorkelling, kayaking or whale watching. You’ll experience coastal walks, quiet beaches, mountains and pretty, quiet towns. You’ll also visit Roque Agando – dubbed the Matterhorn of La Gomera because of its pyramid-like shape. This is a lovely winter walking trip that allows you to relax and take it easy as well as giving your body a moderate work-out.
Tenerife on Foot
The largest, and probably best-known of the Canary Islands is also the highest island in the Atlantic and home to the world’s third tallest volcano. Walking in Tenerife is hugely varied and the aim of this trip is to show you as much as possible. From the ancient university town of La Laguna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the elegant resort of Puerto de la Cruz on the north coast we have selected a programme of varied walks, which when combined with the walking on Mount Teide make for a wonderful week.
Walking in the Canaries
If you’re after a longer winter break, this 15-day trip combines the best of Tenerife and La Gomera. You’ll spend the first week walking virtually the whole length of Tenerife, from north to south, experiencing the amazing diversity of landscapes that the island has to offer, including a visit to El Teide, Tenerife’s vast volcano. You’ll then take the ferry to La Gomera to take a circular walk around the eastern side of the island, sampling the beaches, forests and mountains of Tenerife’s smaller sister.
Madeira Island Walking
Madeira celebrates the 600th anniversary of its discovery by the Portuguese in July 2019 – and its easy to see why this island has become such a popular, year-round destination for holiday-makers. Best known for its cornucopia of gourmet food and wine, year-round, mild, sunny climate and breath-taking scenery, Madeira is the ideal destination to visit at any time of year. This trip is focused on the south and eastern parts of the island, where you’ll have the chance to stay in small charismatic villages full of friendly locals, explore lush green levada walking trails and feel on top of the world as you perch on the highest peak in Madeira.
Winter Walking in Cyprus
Seemingly isolated in the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus has been at the cockpit of western history for thousands of years, notably during the medieval crusades, when it acted as a launch pad for the crusaders. A few kilometres inland from the busy coastal resorts, an older world prevails. Discover sleepy villages, farms and forests with fabled mountain views. Legend has it that Aphrodite, the goddess of love, brought her lover Adonis to the beautiful Akamas peninsula. When walking in Cyprus, you get to experience the land of the Greek gods.
Hiking the Vermillion Coast
This lovely walk starts in France and finishes in Spain, along the coast where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean. It’s a great trip for art lovers – starting in the former fishing village of Collioure, where the colourful Fauve school of painting began, and finishing in Figueres, home to the Salvador Dali museum. In between, you’ll discover charming towns and fishing villages, beautiful scenery and delicious food and wine.
Smugglers Trails of the Sierra de Aracena
This walk takes place in the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche, the second largest Natural Park of Andalucia, situated close to the border with Portugal. The rolling hills and white villages offer wonderful walking opportunities. The character of the villages has changed little over the centuries, their history reflected in their architecture and the landscape surrounding them. On walks you pass along Roman cobbled tracks, glimpsing abandoned watermills and ancient hill forts left by the Moors. This is also a great trip for bird-lovers – the area is rich in many important species including the black vulture, and golden, short-toes and and Bonelli’s eagles.
My early days of cycling and mountain walking led me very quickly to realise the value of wearing sunglasses. Cycling fast, I had various run-ins with bees and flies with a combined impact speed probably around 45mph! Then there have been those times on cycling holidays when a series of tiny fly flew into my eyes and started to dissolve leaving me to have to emergency-stop and flush the critter out before I swerved to the wrong side of the road. My early days on walking holidays in the mountains with inadequate sun protection resulted in squinty, tired and gritty feeling eyes. Soon I was investing in decent cycling sunglasses!
One should note at this stage that when we talk of sunglasses, very few brands these days are actually made of glass. Ray Ban, Persol and Vuarnet, for example still make lovely sunglasses from glass, but these may not be always so good for sporting activities; being heavier on the nose bridge than plastics. There is also the slight worry that a glass lens could break or chip in sport and get into the eyes although this is highly unlikely. Most sports sunglasses are a type of plastic such as silicon or Perspex. Generally speaking these are very strong materials, although not necessarily very resistant to scratching. Oakley were one of the companies that pioneered this manufacture and once boasted ‘bullet proof technology lenses at 10 metres’, their advertisement showing the pock marking on their lenses after a shotgun blast impact, rather than a sniper rifle! Oakley make well-loved sports glasses but may not perform or last as well as models made by manufacturers such as Julbo, Enduro, Tifosi and the likes, for a third of the price. So much for bullet proof protection, my beloved Oakleys eventually fell apart!
Nevertheless, it is probably wise not to buy really cheap shades, slight optical imperfections can in the short-term cause headaches and may do lasting damage in the long-term. Also, importantly the lenses should be shown to block harmful UVA and UVB blue light as this has proven to cause cataracts and retinal problems.
You don’t have to buy an expensive pair of glasses for cycling or hiking, as long as perhaps they are from a reliable make, have UV protection and are manufactured for the category of light that you are going to expose yourself to. Reasonable specification glasses will normally be marked on the frames or box with ‘Category’ (or CAT) 0 to 4: indicating the Visible Light Transmission (VLT) of the lenses. So, Category 0 is like a safety glass, or a clear cycling glass for grey weather and have a VLT of 80-100% whereas a CAT 3 pair have a VLT of 8-17%, which is fine for most walkers or cyclists. CAT 4 glasses are designed for long periods on snow and ice or in bright conditions such as a beach and have a VLT at 3-8%. CAT 4 sunglasses are provided by manufacturers such as Julbo and Vuarnet – both with side pieces or wrap rounds and the latter still using some optically correct glass lenses.
Especially for cyclists it is worth considering a pair of polarised sunglasses. Ordinary tinted sunglass lenses only cut down on ambient light that reaches the eye, or VLT. However by their very nature, they cannot block glare. Only polarised lenses can block glare and not having that option could be dangerous if you are riding your bike.
Tests show that the most protective sunglasses are wrap rounds that protect the eyes from incidental ambient light entering from the side. The wrap round can either be a continuation of the lens, or plastic frame or more traditionally, leather side pieces. Quite a number of cycling shades now have some cut-outs of lens material between the frames and the lens, although this may slightly increase incidental light. The real advantage of this for cycling is that it ventilates and defogs the glasses when you are cycling or running which is really useful. Examples include the expensive Oakley Jawbreaker and the much cheaper Endura Mullet.
There is a fashion at the moment for lenses to have a tint that is as reflective as a shaving mirror. However, even on expensive glasses, mirrored tints can easily scratch and even wear off. A lot of manufacturers have their own style of tint, but fundamentally the most common lens colours are brown, then green, then grey. This is because these lenses are 'colour neutral'- they cut down on overall brightness without distorting colours thereby accentuating relief. Quite a few cycling sunglasses have a range of interchangeable lenses with different tints that can be used in different riding conditions. Oakley and Rudy Project do this at the top end and Endura, Maddison, DHB, Tifosi and others do so at the more economical end. Of course it can be a bit fiddly changing lenses, so for some people photo-chromatic lenses maybe a way forward as they darken or lighten depending upon light intensity (for instance: Julbo Aero bike glasses).
No matter how good the lenses are, it won’t help if the frames let you down - they are after all, the support for the structure. Make sure that when you try the glasses that they fit well and you don’t have to keep sliding them up the bridge of your nose like Agnes does with her glasses in Mrs Brown’s Boys. A lot of the sporting shades do have rubberised ear and nose pieces which make them more secure and stop them from bouncing around when you are doing sports. Frames bend out and fatigue; if you keep them on the top of your head when you are not using them, they will tend to overstretch and then they never fit snuggly anymore. Instead, keep them in a case clipped to your rucksack if walking and if you are not using them while cycling, do what the cycle pros do, and insert them upside down- sliding the arms through the helmet ventilation slots. Watch out also for sunglasses with ‘crystal’ frames (clear transparent plastic) as clear frame can cause light refraction at certain angles around the lens creating dazzle in your eyes.
The hinges of sunglasses will normally break under any kind of stress. Metal frames are more durable than plastic ones and some have a spring induction dampener to prevent overstraining.
Cleaning & Caring of Your Sunglasses
Sunglasses need cleaning regularly especially after cycling or walking when they may be covered in sweat-salt, sun cream, sand particles or even the tiny flies I mentioned earlier. Wash them in warm soapy water, then rinse off. Use the manufacturer’s microfibre wipe for gentle wiping off smears and breathe on the lenses and wipe for polishing. Wash the microfibre wipe regularly. Any screws keep tight, but don’t over tighten.
The more expensive glasses can be made to a prescription order at some expense. Of course, some manufacturers still produce clip-on sun lenses to go onto the frame of your standard glasses.
Some More Thoughts
Many people, such as myself, normally carry two pairs of sunglasses, just in case one pair gets sat on, gets blown off my face or has a lens or frame failure. However, I have decided not to have such an expensive pair for outdoor activities having wiped out a few pairs over the years. I just leave a nice pair of glass-lens & folding Ray Bans in my main bag for après action, chilling and sightseeing use. Sometimes walking around with cycling glasses on, just makes you look too much like a space cadet!
Just to point out that the only sunglasses that lasted me more than 10 years have been a solid pair of Ray Ban Wayfarers, with large metal hinges, and a pair of Rudy Project cycling and running glasses. There are also my beloved heavy duty Vuarnet Alpine glasses that have been with me for 15 years and I just can’t quite get rid of, even though I maybe should..!
For more of John’s Gear Matters blog articles on topics like knives & multitools, water bottles, gaiters and much more, have a look at the complete Gear Matters blog articles overview.
If you have any questions on what gear you should bring on your walking or cycling holiday, please do get in touch with John and the rest of the Sherpa team. We are happy to assist you with specific questions.
July 2019 marks 600 years since the Atlantic archipelago of Madeira was discovered by Portuguese explorers, and a year-long programme of events, shows and exhibitions is taking place throughout 2019 to mark the anniversary.
It was in July 1419 when Portuguese explorers João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz, originally heading to the coast of West Africa, came across the islands of Madeira while looking for shelter from a storm. Fast forward 600 years and the so-called ‘Island of Eternal Spring’ has become a popular tourist destination.
Walking among Madeira's peaks (Photo: Visit Portugal/Francisco Correia)
Walking in Madeira (photo by Visit Portugal/Francisco Correia)
Visitors are attracted by Madeira’s dramatic scenery, lush nature and perfect temperatures – and our walking holiday on the island is an ideal way to experience everything that it has to offer, especially if you’re looking for a winter walking destination.
Rising steeply from the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of Europe and Africa, Madeira offers both a mild year-round climate and a 1,350-mile network of ‘levadas’ – man-made channels created to carry water for irrigation.
Volcanic in origin, Madeira’s rugged interior rises abruptly to over 1,800 metres (6,000 ft), with forests of pine and laurel flanking its jagged peaks.
Follow levadas through a peaceful pastoral countryside, or traverse terraced hillsides. Dating back to the 16th century, these irrigation channels or aqueducts are specific to Madeira, originally built to carry water to the agricultural regions.
Walking along Madeira's levadas (photo: Visit Portugal/Tiago Sousa)
Climb up to Pico Ruivo, the island’s highest peak. Many of the levadas can be followed on foot, which, together with a network of local trails, make even the most remote parts of the island accessible.
Walking up to Pico Ruivo (Photo: Visit Portugal/AP Madeira)
Discover a myriad of colourful flowers - jasmine, begonias, freesias, magnolia and camellias form just a part of the spectacular flora, while the dedicated Orchid Garden is home to more than 7,500 species.
Spend time in the bustling capital of Funchal – visit a Madeira wine lodge, explore colourful food and flower markets and enjoy superb seafood restaurants.
Funchal (Photo: Visit Portugal/Francisco Correia)
Funchal Market at Christmas (Photo: Visit Portugal/Franciso Correia
For more information on walking in Madeira, click here.
There are few counties in England with as much history, natural beauty and sheer romance as Yorkshire. The county, the largest in the UK, includes the National Parks of the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales, and offers some of the most rewarding walking to be found anywhere in the UK.
Whether you’re a resident of the UK looking to explore this famous region of your own country, or a visitor from overseas after a taste of true English countryside, Yorkshire has it all. Dramatic, windswept moorland, dramatic North Sea coastlines, rolling hills and picturesque villages are all on offer when you visit the region that’s so special, it’s known as ‘God’s Own Country’.
Here we take a look at some of the best walks for discovering Yorkshire.
The Dales Way
There’s no doubt about it – the Yorkshire dales are downright beautiful. Ask many people to paint a picture of the quintessential English countryside, and they’ll present you with a scene of the Yorkshire Dales. Soft rolling hills, limestone edges, green valleys, waterfalls, Roman roads, interesting old churches, an abbey and some lovely pubs all feature here - as well as villages proud of their heritage.
The Dales Way runs for 78 miles from Ilkley in West Yorkshire to Bowness-on-Windermere in Cumbria. We offer both 8-day and 10-day self-guided itineraries.
The Cleveland Way
The Cleveland Way was the second of the UK’s National Trails to be established, in 1969. What makes it so special is the contrast between the stretches along the hilly Yorkshire coastline, and the inland stages across the rolling moors. Along the Cleveland Way you’ll experience walking across field-quilted farmlands, forests, dramatic sandstone rock scarps, bleak moorlands and the rugged coastline, punctuated by beautiful little fishing villages, clinging to the cliffs.
Castle to Castle: The Richmond Way
The Richmond Way starts at Lancaster Castle, and finishes 69 miles later at Richmond Castle – visiting Bolton Castle along the way. As such, it is a walk that’s rich in fascinating history – the ancient trading routes that the route follows have existed at least since Roman times. It is a beautiful walk, visiting riverside footpaths, pretty little villages and the famous Ribblehead Viaduct, whilst offering stunning views over the Wensleydale and Swaledale valleys.
James Herriot Way
This 50 mile, circular walk, has been designed to take in some of the countryside beloved by James Alfred Wright, who, under the name of James Herriot, wrote a series of books about his life as a vet. The books were turned into a hugely popular BBC TV series – All Creatures Great and Small. As well passing through some of the finest villages and countryside that Yorkshire has to offer, the walk is a little shorter than some of the others in Yorkshire, and therefore slightly more manageable if walking for 8 days or more is a challenge.
You can also try these classic walks that include long stretches within Yorkshire, as well as other counties:
The Coast to Coast
The iconic Coast to Coast starts in Cumbria, and then heads through the Yorkshire Dales, and on to the North York Moors National Park, where it finishes on the coast at Robin Hood’s Bay. Find out more here
The Pennine Way
The UK’s first, and longest National Trail, passes through the beautiful Yorkshire Dales on its way from Derbyshire to the Scottish Borders. Find out more here
The Americans call it leaf peeping, the Japanese call it momiji gari. But if you're looking to be inspired by the shades of autumn foliage, you don't need to travel all the way to New England or the Far East – Sherpa Expeditions have a number of trips where you can experience the splendour of the changing leaves in Europe.
PORTUGAL | Douro RAMBLER
Surround yourself with colour as autumn transforms the photogenic Douro River Valley, which slices across northern Portugal. As the terraced vineyards that slope along the riverbanks prepare for winter, they turn into an endless sea of red, orange and yellow. From visiting small working wine estates to taking scenic boat trips, there will be plenty of opportunities for wine tasting tours, where you can fortify yourself against the autumn chill with a glass of the region’s famed local port.
Departure dates until 15 October - click here for details and booking.
SPAIN | hiking in hidden Andalucía
The weather in Andalucía’s mountains can be harsh in the summer and winter months – but visit in autumn for beautiful gold and yellow colours of chestnuts and poplars lighting up the valleys, while the hedgerows and paths are lined with figs, mulberries, walnuts and pomegranates. With the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada as a backdrop, this is an exhilarating walk among terraced fields and through white-washed villages and along irrigation channels that date back to the Moorish era.
Departure dates until 20 November - click here for details and booking.
GERMANY | Bavaria - King Ludwig's Way
Saturated with alpine flowers in spring and crowded with tourists in summer, southern Germany offers more relaxed tempos for leaf-peeping during the autumn months. Home to the idyllic Romantic Road, this is fairy-tale country, with geranium-bedecked chalets, onion-shaped church spires and copper-turreted castles rising out of red and green forests – including the enchanting Neuschwanstein Castle, the eccentric King Ludwig’s most famous architectural masterpiece.
Departure dates until 22 October - click here for details and booking.
AUSTRIA | The Lake District and Dachstein Alps
Towering peaks, high mountain passes, alpine meadows and lakeside walks are all combined in this surprisingly compact area – there is nowhere better to experience autumn unfold in Austria than the heart of the Lake District, which encompasses 76 crystal clear lakes, the impressive Dachstein Glacier and breathtaking rock faces up to 3,000 vertical metres high. Wander through ochre mountain forests, explore glimmering lakeland shores and visit alpine villages of wooden chalets.
Departure dates until 20 October - click here for details and booking.
UK | Exploring the Cotswolds
The Cotswolds are a range of gentle hills extending northeast of the city of Bath, through Cheltenham to Stratford-upon-Avon - the ‘Heart of England’. The Cotswold landscape is an entrancing mixture of parkland, cultivated fields with dry-stone walls and patches of unspoilt woodland. In autumn the trees turn into a beautiful myriad of colours - there is nowhere better to experience the splendour of the English countryside as summer slowly fades away. Our walking tours of the Cotswolds are available as 5-day
Amy and John from Minnesota are regular visitors to Europe's walking trails. This spring they decided to walk along Italy’s beautiful Amalfi Coast with Sherpa Expeditions. Here, Amy tells us a little about their trip.
What is your walking history?
My husband and I have been hikers and campers in the mountains of the western US for many years, but after completing our first Sherpa Expeditions self-guided Tour of Mont Blanc in 2014, we have become ‘addicted’ to self-guided exploration in Europe . We return each year, this year twice, to travel in this fashion . When not traveling, I can be found regularly with our dog Lila on the trails of Minnesota’s county and state parks, and my husband can be found running them.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
We chose to sign up for the 11-day Amalfi Coast trip for a variety of reasons. We love the sea and the mountains, it’s in a part of Italy to which we had never been, and we’re used to mountain hiking so we like to challenge ourselves. Also, spring options are somewhat limited for hiking where it is green and lush.
How did you prepare?
We didn’t prepare specifically as we tend to work out on regular basis throughout the year - Nordic skiing in the winter, bicycling in warmer weather, hiking or running (ever so slowly) throughout the year. I have found regular yoga practice to be a great addition in helping my body to be ready.
Your favourite destination?
I am not so sure I had a favourite destination, as I truly loved it all. Each town had its own personality, and each day of hiking offered different sights and sounds . We never tired of the ongoing sweeping views of the sea and of the towns nestled in the mountain-sides. From walking through, and by, the terraces of lemon groves on our first day, to finding our way through the forest above Praino to Boomerano and Path of the Gods, to our final day of hiking on Capri up to the villa where Emperor Tiberius indulged in his lascivious lifestyle, was all a delight.
Best food and drink?
The best food was the incredibly tasty tomatoes, accompanied by what seemed to be freshly made mozzarella cheese. The swordfish I had three times was delicious, as was the lasagne in a bustling but casual small restaurant on a side street in Sorrento. I also can’t forget about the slice of cake from the coffee bakery / restaurant in Ravello that I carried in my pack for 3 days.
The biggest surprise to me is always the people I encounter along the way and the joy and pleasure these encounters bring me. I hope to again see Joan and Bob from Vermont who we initially met while hiking in the pouring rain, and will always remember the so very happy and friendly waitress at the restaurant adjacent to one of the hiking paths.
Unique to this trip, my biggest surprise was just how many steps there could be to navigate, the incredible beauty of the area, and my amazement, given the terrain, that this area was settled in and developed in ancient times.
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
My biggest challenge was my ‘failed’ rain jacket and getting soaking wet, mainly on day 3 of the hike. But of course, the day will always be remembered, especially the restaurant owner who gave us hair dryers with which to dry our boots. Although this was a ‘really good’ jacket, I hadn’t re-tested it to see whether it was still water proof .
Do you have any other advice for travellers thinking about travelling on this trip?
Test your rain gear, even the previously reliable apparel!
Find out more about walking holidays along the Amalfi Coast with Sherpa Expeditions.
If you’ve been on a holiday with Sherpa Expeditions and would like to share your experience in a Traveller’s Tale, please email us. Or if you prefer, you can also leave a review of your trip on Google or Facebook.
John Millen, our resident guide and walking expert, lists his essential items to take on a hiking trip. Especially with mountain trips in mind, but also useful to those that plan to walk outside the mountains, these items to pack on your walking holiday can certainly help you enjoy your holiday in the outdoors even more.
Bookmark this list of 10 things to pack on your walking holiday with Sherpa Expeditions and keep it handy for your next holiday in Europe.
Wear several layers of thin clothing, such as a thin merino top under a shirt and then a thin or thick fleece that can be taken off to adapt to changes in temperature. Also, have a waterproof coat ready and waiting. Quite a nice item to have if you are prone to feeling the cold, is a down 'gillet' which is like a puff jacket without the arms. These can be packed away easily and can be brought out if you get cold.
Take comfortable broken in, but not broken-down hiking boots with some cushioning either in the insole, outsole or both! Trail or fell runners may be used to tackling alpine paths in trail shoes, but for travellers on our trips, trainers or running shoes do not give enough support for the rocky, uneven terrain. Hiking boots come in different categories of stiffness (based on the difficulty of the terrain for which the shoes are designed). On particularly stony trails, a pair of short gaiters called ankle gaiters, can be fitted to stop your boots filling up with stones.
>> Bonus: Tips on cleaning your boots
Wear a hat to protect your face and head from the sun. Some have flaps to protect your ears and neck as well. The best hats are the ones that not only dry fast but retain their shape once you have stuffed them in your bag. Tilley hats, for example, are expensive, but they are very good.
Take along suitable sunglasses: they should be wrap-round style and rated Category 3. For those of you that plan to go particularly high or into snow then 'Category 4' and, preferably, a pair with side protection is recommended.
Always remember to take a rainproof top and trousers. Rain showers are quite regular in the Alps, as well as most of northern Europe and the UK, and you do not want to be caught out in the wet. It is amazing how many people return or replace Gore-tex and other 'breathable' garments because they think that they no longer breathe. It is usually the case however that the garment is fine, but the fabric works on a humidity gradient and sweat will always build up in conditions where you work yourself hard, or there is a high level of ambient humidity. However, make sure that you check the taped seams are in place and wash the piece regularly.
Wear thick socks, preferably loop stitched and seamless ones. This can prevent your feet from getting blisters and adds cushioning to your walk. Tip of the expert: carry a spare pair on you.
>> Bonus: Looking after your feet on a walking holiday
Detailed Paper Map & Compass
GPS is generally accurate and reliable, however when it goes wrong it is great to have the back-up of a real map and compass. Although high-end GPS and some phones have good mapping features, it is often difficult to view the LCDs in bright sunlight and also to see 'the big picture'. Don't forget a waterproof map case (e.g. Ortlieb) to protect the maps that we prepare for you on your walks and cycling days.
Take a whistle to warn people in the area if you are in trouble. The emergency signal to use if you need help is 6 signals per minute followed by a one-minute break. You should repeat this until help arrives or until you get an answer of 3 signals per minute followed by a one-minute break. In case you don't have a whistle, you can use a torch (flashlight).
Put all these items in a comfortable day pack, there are many makes at so many different prices. You will be generally better off having a bag that is a bit bigger than all that you put into it, to avoid crushing items. So if you know that your 30 litre pack is crammed full, get a 45 or 50 litre one. Bags with a chest harness as well as waist harness give better stability while you are walking or moving downhill. If you like your photography and are used to carrying your camera, then you should have enough room to stow it during bad weather.
Very few makes of rucksack are completely waterproof, and during a big shower some water can penetrate even if you have a rain cover. So, a dry bag for delicate items such as first aid kit, camera, passport etc, are really useful.
- First aid kit, including a rescue or Bivouac bag or blanket, in case you have to stop in an emergency.
- Mobile phone with important phone numbers at hand, even though remote areas may have no mobile coverage, there may be others near you with satellite phones.
- Trekking poles are convenient for both descending and ascending as well they are indispensable on difficult terrain. Poles can be used to pre-load your weight as you descend and save pressure on the knees.
- Sufficient amount of food and drinks: a water bottle with at least 1-litre capacity - normally there are plenty of places to fill up in the mountains to avoid dehydration. Also bring with you some spare food such as energy bars, nuts, dried fruit etc.
- If you wear shorts, don’t forget to also pack a lightweight pair of long trousers to protect against the sun, cold and insects. Trousers are also useful when walking through thicker vegetation. Trousers with zips around the legs that turn into shorts can be useful if you prefer not to carry an extra pair.
If you’re someone who likes to travel solo, but without walking on your own, you may have tried an escorted tour in the past. After all, it’s a great way to ensure that you’ve got a group of people to walk with, especially if you’re not so keen on navigating on your own. But what do you do if you didn’t like the pace, or even the company? Maybe there was not enough time to take photos, or to visit that rather interesting pub on the way? Are you walking alone to get away from people, to clear your mind? Or are you hoping to meet new friends and see where the path takes you? In this article we take a look at a selection of trips, at different ability levels, that might make good choices for solo walkers.
So what is the difference between solo walking and going with friends or family? Well, for a start there is no one to argue with over directions or to where to stop for a break... you can literally take that all in your stride! A very important aspect is solo safety: if you were to have an accident, would phone reception be enough to raise the alarm or would there be people on the trail to help? It’s important that solo walkers think about such matters, have a fully charged phone and perhaps a fully-charged portable battery recharger. Carry a small first aid kit and a lightweight survival bag, and make sure you have a map and compass, a torch (plus spare batteries), extra water and emergency snack supplies.
Less Challenging Trips
If you’re starting down this road, there is no better place to look at than Hadrian's Wall
in Northern England, starting at Wallsend near Newcastle. There is a day of urban walking before you burst out across the countryside, essentially following a linear feature, the famous Roman wall. Although this no longer stretches all the way as an intact wall, the clues are often in the landscape, and just to help out you will have little white National Trail acorn waymarks to guide you. There are usually quite a number of people on the trail each day, particularly on the popular central section of the walk, which covers a couple of days.
Walking the Hadrian's Wall Path
A bit quieter, but covering a similar theme with the National Trail white acorns to show you the way, are both the South Downs Way and Dales Way, which both represent relatively easy challenges. Some care is needed with navigation, as these twist and turn a bit, and you need to follow the map carefully to be prepared for a junction. The Dales Way is the harder of the two - as you cross the Pennines you have a greater chance of bad weather, which can mean low visibility. There is a bit of route-finding across fields in places, and although well waymarked, it only takes one to be missing for you to have to consider where you are going.
Walking the Dales Way
If you’re looking for a similar trip in Europe you could consider something like the Alsace Vineyard Trail in France or King Ludwig's Way in Bavaria, Germany. Both are largely waymarked routes - the French long distance paths the, known as GRs, have red and white flash markings which are usually clear in dim forest light, although not all our trips continuously follow such waymarks. A couple of good trips for solo walkers in southern France are The Way of St. James, or the Robert Louis Stevenson Walk in the Cevennes. There are some long days but you are generally following drove roads and mule paths with good waymarking.
Walking King Ludwig's Way
Stevenson's Trail in the Cevennes
Another good concept for a solo traveller is a centre-based holiday in Switzerland - Sherpa has one based in Meiringen. There are several walks you can choose, so you can do shorter or longer options, and there are a lot of public transport possibilities in general. Something else in its favour is that Swiss walks are generally very clearly waymarked and signposted at most junctions.
Walking solo in the Swiss Alps
Harder up the scale for solo walkers in terms of navigation are trails with some wild terrain and maybe fewer, or no waymarks. In the UK there’s the short but beautiful James Herriot Way
, celebrating the life and times of the famous British vet, whose books inspired the much-loved TV series All Creatures Great and Small
. This walk climbs and drops into the great dales of the Pennines, and may require some careful navigation in bad weather. But if solitude is what you’re after you’ll definitely find it! The Troodos and Akamas
tours in Cyprus have few waymarks, but generally follow dirt roads and quiet, surfaced lanes. This is definitely one for the walker seeking solitude, as apart from a couple of trails in the Akamas, it is unlikely you will see many another walkers.
The James Herriot Way
Harder tours present more of a challenge for solos as they are more remote. We can suggest the Tour du Mont Blanc and The Alpine Pass Route - both are well waymarked, have various variants you can follow, and, especially on the Tour du Mont Blanc, you will always find people walking, running or mountain biking. In the UK the Coast to Coast also stands out, with quite a number of people on the trail every day, although you may also find yourself alone for some long sections. If you’re really looking for a decent amount of time on your own, you could consider the Pennine Way for the ultimate challenge, with long, deserted moorland sections on a walk covering 270 miles!
The UK Coast to Coast Walk
The Pennine Way
But what about solo traveller supplements, we hear you ask? Well, it is true that we have to add a supplement to the cost of your holiday if you’re travelling alone. This is mainly due to the cost of luggage transfers for just one bag. However, we try to keep the solo supplement as low as we possibly can, as we do not want to create any barriers for those wishing to travel alone.